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Food addiction – how does it compare with drug addiction?

30 January 2017

Food addiction has become a popular explanation of overeating. But what is the scientific consensus on the evidence concerning food addiction, and does the use of the concept of addiction help or hinder attempts to eat less?

In a review published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, Peter Rogers describes similarities between appetites for foods and drugs. Similarities are to be expected because addictive drugs tap into the same behavioural processes and brain systems that evolved to respond to ‘natural’ rewards, including food.

Drugs, however, have more potent effects, and their use also permanently alters brain reward pathways. In part, claims that certain foods are hard to resist because they are addictive depends on how addiction is defined. Such claims might be helpful in persuading policy makers to restrict marketing and availability of some foods. However, endorsing food addiction in this way risks trivialising serious addictions, and at an individual level attributing overeating to food addiction may be counterproductive because it implies an inability to control one’s eating.

Further information

Please find the Link to the paper here: Food and drug addictions: Similarities and differences


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